Interview by Robert Cavuoto
Epica’s newest release, The Holographic Principle, will be available on September 30th and truly represents the most impressive and powerful expression of the bands boldly inventive sound yet. One listen to thunderous new songs like “Edge Of The Blade” and “Universal Death Squad” will confirm that this CD is Epica’s heaviest album to date. Meanwhile, the shimmering soundscapes and multi-layered melodrama of “Once Upon A Nightmare” and the towering 11-minute title track confirm that The Holographic Principle is also the band’s most musically extravagant and daring release so far. With lashings of sumptuous orchestration and a never-ending stream of ingenious but brutal metal riffs and propulsive rhythms underpinning the whole explosive enterprise, this is an album that raises the bar for the entire symphonic metal genre.
I caught up with lead vocalist, Simone Simons to talk about this daring new CD, The Holographic Principle, and the works that goes into making a symphonic metal masterpiece.
Robert Cavuoto: Lyrically your songs are deep and you sing them so passionately, I get the sense there is a story behind the CD depicting what The Holographic Principle is?
Simone Simons: It isn’t a concept CD as the story is not in a chronological order of events from beginning to the end. Some songs deviate from the idea. The Holographic Principle is basically that we are living in a hologram. With the new technology and virtual reality glasses we realize reality is generated so perfectly that you can no longer tell the difference so can reality also be a hologram?
Robert: The production quality is incredible, tell me about importance of sonics when it comes to symphonic metal?
Simone Simons: I think the sonics would be equally important to any band not just a symphonic metal band like us. Every band wants to songs to sound the best they possibly can on the CD. That is why you have to record parts a million times in order for them to come as perfect as possible. When it came time for recording my vocals, our producer said that he doesn’t want to overdo it as we don’t want to lose the emotion in my vocals. That is something you cannot fix in editing. Overall production wise we went bigger because we recorded with more instruments as we had a good budget to finance it. We were in the studio for about five months recording. The writing took about a year; we had 27 songs to choose from when we were done. Then we had to narrow it down to 18 songs which we recorded and mixed. Twelve went to the CD and the remaining six are in the corner waiting patiently to be released.
Robert: Who is the main composer determining what instruments are needed and handles their arrangements?
Simone Simons: That’s our producer, Joost van den Broek. He knows the right people for the job and how to arrange the songs and work to score the orchestra. He was working with the orchestra while we were on tour and he would send us the samples even though we were on the other side of the world.
Robert: Metal fans may say those instruments are not metal, how do you address those people?
Simone Simons: Tell them to listen to other music as there are so many other bands to choose from [laughing]. I still think we are heavy and can also attract a wider audience.
Robert: Since the bands inceptions, how do you feel the band has evolved musically?
Simone Simons: We have made so many great records but I would really love to redo some of those songs as I’m such a better singer now. Not just my technique but my growth as a person. I was 17 when we made the first CD and now I’m a mature woman now. I have more life experience. I don’t want to sound like a grandma but that what is different. When we perform songs from the first record we play them slightly different then how we did back then. We have also had three band member changes and they also brought changes and improvements with them. They are not only great musicians but also great songwriters. Those are the biggest ways in which we really how we have evolved over the years.
Robert: What has it been like for Epica to break into the US market as we don’t have any radio station that play for metal or video music channels?
Simone Simons: It has taken us a few times to see a growth and every time we come back we play larger venues. I think the US is huge with so many musicians, bands, and styles. It’s also quite a big financial investment to do a tour in the US two or three times a year particularly when you don’t live there. So there is a real business side to things. We are becoming more known in the US as with each tour and show we see more people coming but it’s not like a rapid growth if you compare to what we are doing in France.
Robert: Would you say that France has the biggest Epica fanbase?
Simone Simons: France definitely. Also Mexico and Latin America.
Robert: There was a phase in metal music where bands were playing with an orchestra; every one of your CDs is a symphony with orchestra, what do you make of that?
Simone Simons: I really love the combination of orchestra and the rock. We have done it twice in a bigger style once in Hungry and other time as a retrospect for our 10 year anniversary. It’s a huge undertaking to put that together but on the other hand that is how we intended our music. It can be very expensive, take lot to coordination, and then of course transporting all the people. Also sometimes the stages are not big enough for all the members of the orchestra. I think it goes really well together.